Peninsula school board president resigns over wife's 'racist' tweets about Kamala Harris

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Tuesday, November 10, 2020
School official resigns over wife's racist, misogynistic tweets
The president of a peninsula school board has resigned following a series of homophobic, sexist and racist tweets made by his wife.

MENLO PARK, Calif. (KGO) -- The president of a Peninsula school board has resigned following a series of homophobic, sexist and racist tweets made by his wife.

Mother of four, Brianna Caldwell spoke out Wednesday after seeing the now deleted tweets made by Mehridith Venverloh, wife of Jon Venverloh, a former Google employee who up until this week was the president of the Las Lomitas school board.

"I almost vomited, then I cried a little bit and then I was just shaking and I was so angry," says Caldwell, shaking her head.

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Her fellow parents echoed similar sentiments online and in-person outside both the district's elementary and middle schools in Atherton and Menlo Park.

"I was shocked...I feel sorry for the lady (Mehridith) more than anything else," says Sasa Caval who was picking her daughter up from school.

Some of Mehridith's tweets, in reference to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and the LGBTQ community, are so sexist and vulgar, we can't repeat them.

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"I was watching systemic racism happening, on display in my own children's school in our backyard!" exclaims Caldwell.

After the Tweets circulated on social media, parents called for Jon to resign, which he did Tuesday. The father of four sent ABC7 News a statement saying he doesn't agree with his wife's comments.

Mehridith's statement, seen in its entirety below, included an apology for her comments and explained a medical condition was to blame for her "reduced judgement."

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The Las Lomitas superintendent, Dr. Beth Polito spoke to ABC7 on the phone condemning the racist statements and saying bigotry would not be tolerated, which was similar messaging she sent to parents in an email.

"Fortunately we have been working on equity for a number of years in the district. Equity was a top theme of interest for staff and community members...and this illustrated there is a lot of work to be done," says Polito.

While the process to replace Jon Venverloh has already started, Caldwell has started a petition for even more change to the school board going forward.

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"Our board members have to be well versed in equity and inclusivity and diversity they have to be racially literate," she says.

Two new board members of color, were recently added in this past election.

Jon Venverloh's statement:

Dear Las Lomitas School Community,

"It is with a heavy heart that I announce I am resigning as Trustee of the Las Lomitas Elementary School District, effective immediately. I love this community, but I love my family more and need to be focused on and support them at this time.
My wife and I have volunteered in the District for over a decade while our four girls have gone through our amazing schools with our world class teachers. I have raised tens of thousands of dollars to support our schools and to make them as strong as possible. I stood for election to be a Trustee because I care about doing the right thing for ALL of our kids in our District. However, given my wife's social media posts, which expressed reprehensible views that I do not agree with, I know that my continued service would be a distraction from the work that needs to be done in the District over the two years remaining in my term.

Let me be clear: I did not make the remarks that have so upset the community. I was not present when they were made. I have never encouraged such thinking or opinions, and I don't agree with them in any way whatsoever. They do not represent who I am nor who my family is in any way. On the contrary, I have been an active champion
of diversity and inclusion and we have funded significant projects to benefit the underserved. As School Board president I called for a review of our curriculum to ensure it addresses topics of racial understanding and respect, and I always apply a strong equity lens to all our policy decisions.

Despite one of the most difficult years we've had as a nation and a community because of the ongoing pandemic, I am proud to have served our kids in helping create a safe (and in many cases new) school environment. I truly believe that our District is stronger than ever because we worked together to get all of our kids safely back to school and learning.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve our schools and our community for the past two years. I wish you all well.

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Mehridith Venverloh's statement:

Words cannot express how sorry I am for the offensive posts I made on social media in the middle of the night last night. Those who know me know I am passionate about my beliefs, and I do not shy away from sharing those views.

However, last night in a moment of disappointment, I wrote vulgar words that crossed the line, words that are inconsistent with my values and my family's values. For this, I am deeply sorry and ashamed. This is a really painful way to fail my family, friends and community.

Some of you know I suffer from a debilitating neurological disease, and as a result I take various medications. Over the past several days I have been weaning off of my meds to prepare for a hospitalization that is scheduled to start tomorrow. I believe that the change in my medication reduced my judgment between right and wrong when I made the posts. There is no excuse for what I wrote, but I ask for your understanding that my state of mind was far from normal last night.

I apologize to the Bay Area community for my actions. I apologize to my husband who fights passionately and tirelessly every day for our Las Lomitas schools. And I apologize to my precious daughters. I pray I set a better example for them going forward. I also apologize to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Whether or not we agree politically, the election of Vice President-elect Harris is an important moment in history and a reminder to every woman and girl that they can be anything they want to be in our great country.

I will be stepping away from social media after this post. I humbly ask the community for your forgiveness. I ask that you please respect the privacy of our family right now and not take this out on our children or my husband, who were not involved in any way.

Find resources to help with equality, justice and race issues here.